Toronto Public Library has an array of resources on the subject of fashion, including books on fashion and fashion designers, fashion drawing, photography, magazines and more. But a full picture of fashion includes acknowledging the negative aspects of the industry, such as health and safety risks and human rights abuses of workers, child exploitation, environmental degradation including textile waste, and animal cruelty. After the 2013 collapse of the Rana Plaza building in Bangladesh, a horrific tragedy killing over 1100 garment workers, mostly women and children, the world began to pay more attention to how industry manufacturing practices affect garment workers, communities and the environment. It seems we are seeing a deeper cultural shift with regard to concern about the social and environmental costs of the products we use. The library has many resources to help navigate these complex issues.
Slave to Fashion: "Interviews and microdocumentaries with the men, women and children caught in slavery, making the clothes sold on our high streets in Europe and the developing world. It also profiles best practice of brands and designers within the fashion industry to prove that slave-free fashion is achievable and fashion can be used to empower workers."
Before their Time: the World of Child Labor. "Physician and photographer David L. Parker takes us beyond the headlines and into the textile factories, stone quarries, and garbage dumps where children are forced--by unscrupulous adults or by lack of any other economic opportunity--into the desperate cycle of child labor. His haunting and sensitive portrayal of these children preserves their dignity and humanity while exposing their often tragic circumstances.
Clothed in Integrity: weaving Just Cultural Relations and the Garment Industry. "Barbara Paleczny, herself a daughter of garment workers, tugs at the threads of homeworking in the garment industry to reveal a low-wage strategy that rends the fabric of social integrity and exposes global trends. The resurgence of sweatshops affects the working poor in both first- and third-world countries. Paleczny assesses the responsibility of transnational retailers for unacceptable wages and working conditions and describes historic shifts in the global context of garment production."
Fugitive Denim: a moving Story of People and Pants in the Borderless World of Global Trade. "In the business of making and selling clothes, "Made in" labels do precious little to convey the constellation of treaties, countries, and people at work in the assembly of a simple pair of jeans. In Fugitive Denim journalist Rachel Louise Snyder reports from the far reaches of this multi-billion-dollar industry in search of the real people who make your clothes. From a cotton picker in Azerbaijan to a Cambodian seamstress, a denim maker in Italy to a fashion designer in New York, Snyder captures the human, environmental, and political forces at work in a dizzyingly complex and often absurd world. In a disarming and humorous voice, she ponders questions of equity, sweatshops, and corporate social responsibility through narratives of individual people, making an often academic subject accessible and compelling."Out of Poverty: Sweatshops in the Global Economy. "This book provides a comprehensive defense of third-world sweatshops. It explains how these sweatshops provide the best available opportunity to workers and how they play an important role in the process of development that eventually leads to better wages and working conditions. Using economic theory, the author argues that much of what the anti-sweatshop movement has agitated for would actually harm the very workers they intend to help by creating less desirable alternatives and undermining the process of development. Nowhere does this book put "profits" or "economic efficiency" above people. Improving the welfare of poorer citizens of third world countries is the goal, and the book explores which methods best achieve that goal. Out of Poverty will help readers understand how activists and policy makers can help third world workers."
Sweatshop Warriors : Immigrant Women Workers take on the Global Factory. "Summarizing the histories of Chinese, Mexican, and Korean immigration, Sweatshop Warriors examines the practices and policies that propel women, men, and children into dangerous and poorly paid jobs."
A final note: CBC's Marketplace aired the episode, "Clothing Waste: Fashion's Dirty Secret" in January of this year. The program offers insight into the controversies surrounding clothes recycling programs.